[Humanist] 30.487 cartoons, comics, models, ontologies

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sun Nov 13 13:26:40 CET 2016


                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 30, No. 487.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    Manfred Thaller <manfred.thaller at uni-koeln.de>            (11)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 30.486 ontology to ontologies?

  [2]   From:    Tim Smithers <tim.smithers at cantab.net>                    (77)
        Subject: Re:  30.477 cartoons to comics, model to modelling

  [3]   From:    "William L. Benzon" <bbenzon at mindspring.com>              (31)
        Subject: Re:  30.486 ontology to ontologies?


--[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Sat, 12 Nov 2016 14:22:27 +0100
        From: Manfred Thaller <manfred.thaller at uni-koeln.de>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 30.486 ontology to ontologies?
        In-Reply-To: <20161112094806.CA1F38216 at digitalhumanities.org>


Dear Willard,

Am 12.11.2016 um 10:48 schrieb Humanist Discussion Group:
> But as far as I can tell philosophers were
> not and are not interested in what happened to the word in computer
> science. Too bad.

Luciano Floridi, The Philosophy of Information, OUP 2011, dedicates his 
fourteenth chapter "Against digital ontology", 316-338, central aspects 
of this relationship. (Which may be more meaningful within the context 
of his book / theory than out of context.)

Best,
Manfred



--[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Sat, 12 Nov 2016 20:45:49 +0100
        From: Tim Smithers <tim.smithers at cantab.net>
        Subject: Re:  30.477 cartoons to comics, model to modelling
        In-Reply-To: <20161110075432.0FD448243 at digitalhumanities.org>


Dear Willard,

You say 

 "...  a mathematical model states a relationship, which then
  can be operationalised by making the calculation, ..."

Yes, this feels right.  My understanding is that to
operationalise it to give form and mechanism to a description
so that what is described can be made to happen.

You go on to ask

 "Could we say that a cartoon operationalises a story?  This
  would require reading understood as enactment."

No, I don't think so, but we could say a cartoon dramatises a
story--gives it a form and sense that brings it to life.
Which, in my mind, would make reading a cartoon an enactment.

There is, I think, an important distinction lurking back stage
here.

Operationalisation can be operationalised, and thus done my a
machine.  Dramatisation cannot be operationalised.  Only
living brings a capacity to tell what it takes to bring
something to life.  I would say.

Which is why, I would add, Sousanis' Unflattening is such a
dramatic experience to read, and thus take part in.

So, what I think we should be saying is that calling a cartoon
a model is a poor joke, and calling a model a cartoon isn't
funny.

Best regards, 

Tim

> On 10 Nov 2016, at 08:54, Humanist Discussion Group <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk> wrote:
> 
>                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 30, No. 477.
>            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
>                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
>                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
> 
> 
> 
>        Date: Thu, 10 Nov 2016 06:20:06 +0000
>        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
>        Subject: cartoons to comics
> 
> 
> Thanks to Norman Gray for distinguishing
> 
>> a cartoon, which is impressionistic and expository, from a model,
>> which operationalises an understanding of the 'important' aspects of
>> a system. Thus a model is concrete enough (mathematically) that it
>> can be simulated or calculated with, and indeed is capable of being
>> shown to be inadequate in a particular context.
> 
> My understanding is that a mathematical model states a relationship, 
> which then can be operationalised by making the calculation, if by 
> computer then requiring a translation into software (which is a kind of 
> mathematics?) or, if using an analogical machine, into some kind of 
> mechanical or electronic setup. I like to distinguish that sort of thing 
> from modelling, in which the modeller uses and reuses the model as an 
> exploratory instrument.
> 
> McCloud distinguishes a cartoon from comics, a series laid out and 
> enacted by the reader in time. Could we say that a cartoon 
> operationalises a story? This would require reading understood as enactment.
> 
> We're dealing with an analogy, of course. So it breaks down, and one 
> does have to probe for the weaknesses. But my earlier point was that 
> McCloud's "amplification through simplification" suggests a parallel, 
> analogous dilation of modelling, its use as a way of imagining and reasoning. 
> Sousanis' Unflattening, which I wrote briefly about a while ago, makes 
> the enactment visceral-cognitive -- the reader is immersed in the model -- 
> as an experimenter is in the experiment? Trim the wild thoughts if you 
> will.
> 
> 
> Yours,
> WM
> 
> -- 
> Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/), Professor, Department of Digital
> Humanities, King's College London; Adjunct Professor, Western Sydney
> University



--[3]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Sat, 12 Nov 2016 15:34:44 -0500
        From: "William L. Benzon" <bbenzon at mindspring.com>
        Subject: Re:  30.486 ontology to ontologies?
        In-Reply-To: <20161112094806.CA1F38216 at digitalhumanities.org>


This is a subject that interests me a great deal, Willard.

First, take a look at this Google Ngram query on ontology, semantics, and cognition:

http://tinyurl.com/h3jzut7  http://tinyurl.com/h3jzut7

You’ll see that they all start rising in the middle of the previous century. 

I don’t have a firm sense of when I first saw “ontology” appear in the computing literature in its current sense, but it was likely the late 1970s or early 1980s. I think it first appeared in the artificial intelligence and cognitive science literature in connection with knowledge representation (KR). Various research groups developed their own KR formalisms and, as formalisms proliferated, people began comparing them. “Ontology” emerged as a term & theme under which to conduct the comparison. Each KR formalism posited its own basic set of objects, processes, and properties, that is, its own ontology. The term then migrated from AI and cog sci to computer science more generally.

I began working with David Hays in the fall of 1975. At the time he was circulating an essay analyzing the concept alienation, which was published in 1976:

David G. Hays  (1976).  On "Alienation":  An Essay in the Psycholinguistics of Science.  In (R.R. Geyer & D. R. Schietzer, Eds.):  Theories of Alienation.  Leiden:  Martinus Nijhoff, pp. 169-187. Download here: https://www.academia.edu/9203457/On_Alienation_An_Essay_in_the_Psycholinguistics_of_Science <https://www.academia.edu/9203457/On_Alienation_An_Essay_in_the_Psycholinguistics_of_Science>

In that paper he introduced the notion of a realm of being along with the relation of assignment. 

I looked at that and thought, Aristotle. Thus, a concrete object (in one realm of being)  consists of an assignment between a form (in one realm of being) and a substance (in another realm of being). Concrete objects, forms, and substances would be represented by nodes in a cognitive network and assignment is the edge that links forms to objects and substances to objects. Similarly, a plant is an assignment between an object and a vegetative soul. And so on up the Great Chain of Being. I wrote that up in an unpublished paper in which I analyzed two short passages from Wm Carlos Williams, Patterson, Book V.

Hays and another of his students, David Bloom, published the idea in a book chapter:

David G. Hays and D. Bloom (1978). "Designation in English."  In Anaphora in Discourse, edited by John V. Hinds. Edmonton, Alta. ; Champaign, Ill. : Linguistic Research.

Some years later I wrote up a technical report for the Center for Manufacturing Productivity at RPI:

William L. Benzon. Ontology in Knowledge Representation in CIM.  Center for Manufacturing Productivity and Technology Transfer, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.  Report No. CIMNW85TR034, January 1985. Online here: https://www.academia.edu/19804747/Ontology_in_Knowledge_Representation_for_CIM <https://www.academia.edu/19804747/Ontology_in_Knowledge_Representation_for_CIM>

There I ran up a core ontology for the common sense world, but also a fragment for the world of manufacturing. Somewhat later I did an article

William Benzon. "Ontology of Common Sense."  Handbook of Metaphysics and Ontology. Hans Burkhardt and Barry Smith, eds. Philosophia Verlag, 1991, pp. 159-161. Online: https://www.academia.edu/28723042/Ontology_of_Common_Sense <https://www.academia.edu/28723042/Ontology_of_Common_Sense>

I began by pointing out that, while salt and sodium chloride designate more or less the same substance (the latter is free of impurities, the former is not), the first is defined in a common sense ontology of visual perception, touch, and above all, taste and the second is defined in an abstract scientific ontology of atoms, subatomic particles, and atomic bonds. I’ve gathered a miscellany of observations into a working paper:

William Benzon, Ontological Cognition, a Working Paper, November 2012. Online here:  https://www.academia.edu/7931749/Ontological_Cognition <https://www.academia.edu/7931749/Ontological_Cognition>

The section, “The Great Chain of Being as a Conceptual Structure” (pp. 26-29) lays out the basic scheme we developed with Hays back in the 1970s.

As I’ve indicated, the work I did with Hays involves the assignment relation. That allowed us to account for and describe ontology as something that happens within conceptual structure rather than being something one observes about cognitive structure from the outside. As far as I know, no one else in the knowledge representation business quite got the point of this, the idea that there is an ontological dimension of cognition. In 1989 George Layoff and Mark Turner discussed the Great Chain of Being in More Than Cool Reason, but they just saw it as a complex and sophisticated metaphorical construction. They didn’t get the idea of an ontological dimension to cognition either.

Within the last couple of years, however, Bruno Latour has been publishing on the idea of modes of existence. The main text would be An Inquiry Into Modes of Existence (Harvard 2013), which I’ve not read, but I’ve read shorter treatments (e.g. On the Modern Cult of the Factish Gods). This, of course, has an ontological caste.

You mention Turing and his famous abstract machine. The current controversy within linguistics concerning the status of recursion is related to that. Chomsky asserts that recursion is the defining property of universal grammar. Others, most prominently Daniel Everett, argue that there are languages without recursion.

Finally, there is Dan Dennett. You might want to look at his video, ‘Ontology, science, and the evolution of the manifest image’: https://youtu.be/GcVKxeKFCHE <https://youtu.be/GcVKxeKFCHE> Among other things he asks us to imagine the ontology of an elevator’s control system and talks about pseudo code.

I hope some of this is useful.

Bill Benzon

[snip]

Bill Benzon
bbenzon at mindspring.com

646-599-3232

http://new-savanna.blogspot.com/
http://www.facebook.com/bill.benzon
http://www.flickr.com/photos/stc4blues/





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